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Communities threaten to block Mangochi airport project

CHIMPHEPO—They should not be afraid

By Yohane Symon:

Some members of the community in Mangochi District are unhappy with how the government is handling negotiations on allocation of a piece of land for the construction of an international airport.

The concerned people have claimed that the government was bullying them by imposing conditions on the land instead of negotiating with the affected people.

In addition, the people said they were not happy with the way the government is releasing pieces of information, especially regarding compensation which the people are expected to receive to pave the way for the project.

In 1986, the government secured a piece of land for construction of the airport in areas of traditional chiefs under Traditional Authority Mponda in Mangochi.

However, some people have, over the years, been farming on the said piece of land while others have constructed houses, forcing the government to renegotiate for the release of the piece of the land.

“We are not against the construction of the airport, but what we are worried with is that the government is not being open on how the affected people would be assisted. The picture at the moment is that we are not going to be compensated because we settled on the government’s land. But the government should not forget that it took the piece of land from our parents without paying them,” Alex Hassan, one of the affected people, said.

“If anything, we will not move from this place because this is our land. Chiefs who signed for this land have no land. The land belongs to the people and now the people want answers from the government before construction of the airport; otherwise, we will not move an inch,” he said.

But Mangochi District Commissioner, Moses Chimphepo, parried the people’s fears, saying the government could not take the piece of land without compensating them.

He said, at this stage, it was not known as to how much money would be given to each affected individual because the Department of Lands was yet to evaluate the affected property.

“The information we are giving now is enough. After this stage, we will identify affected people before doing an evaluation of their property.

“From there, the Lands Department would value the property to come up with actual amounts to be compensated. So, they should not be afraid because the government would follow all the appropriate procedures before commencing construction,” Chimphepo said.

Three years ago, Mota Engil failed to construct a five-star hotel in Mangochi-Monkey Bay following disagreements between the government and people who were expected to relocate and pave the way for the construction of the hotel.

When the project was called off, $2 million was reportedly spent on feasibility studies, consultancy, designs and environmental impact assessments on the proposed site.

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